Part 4: Where to from here?

Summary of our fraud survey results for tertiary education institutions.

Always report suspected or detected fraud to your auditor

Our work on this fraud survey has brought to light that a change in emphasis within public entities would be helpful. We – all of us who work in the public sector – need to recognise that "doing the right thing" does not mean keeping quiet about suspected or detected fraud in an effort to be fair to the person or people suspected of fraud.

Instead, "doing the right thing" means speaking up, and that includes telling your appointed auditor about each and every suspected or detected fraud. A suspected or detected fraud is a sign of some success and an opportunity – it means that controls are working or that staff know what to look for and the environment is supportive of them speaking up about any suspicions, or both.

The opportunity that a fraud presents is the chance to share information with your auditor and other public entities, so that we can all learn from each other's experiences – and tighten our controls whenever we need to.

Learn from the anonymous information that we will share

We will centrally collate and analyse all the fraud information shared with auditors. We will use it to publish anonymous and general information on our website from time to time.

You will be able to see which sorts of controls or procedures are working to identify potential fraud in workplaces similar to yours. The cumulative effect of this co-operation and sharing will be stronger controls, and our efforts to keep our public sector clean will be greatly aided.

As our sector gets better at preventing and detecting fraud, this approach should help reduce the amount of public money lost through fraud. This is always important, but especially so in tough economic climates.

Consider reporting suspected or detected fraud to the Police

If you are a senior manager or charged with providing governance, you need to consider the public sector context when deciding how to respond to a suspected fraud. The perception of how fraud and other types of criminal or corrupt activity are dealt with in the public sector is an important part of maintaining public trust and confidence in the public sector.

In any context, a range of factors have to be balanced when deciding whether to refer suspected offending to law enforcement agencies. These may include the scale and nature of wrongdoing, the likelihood of securing a conviction if prosecuted, how long ago the event(s) took place, the attitude and situation of the alleged offender, and any reparation that has been made.

In the public sector, you also need to consider:

  • maintaining the highest possible standards of honesty and integrity;
  • the fact that the public sector is entrusted with taxpayer and ratepayer funds;
  • the importance of transparency and accountability for use of public funds; and
  • the risk of a perception that something has been "swept under the carpet".

In effect, this means that the threshold for referring a matter to law enforcement agencies by public entities is likely to be lower than it might be in other entities. It may not be enough for suspected fraud or wrongdoing to be resolved through an employment settlement. It can be important that an independent and transparent decision is made about whether prosecution is warranted.

The Auditor-General's policy is that we expect the managers of public entities to consider carefully, in every case, whether to refer a suspected or detected fraud to law enforcement agencies.

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